How The Cognitive Symptoms of These Chronic Conditions Are Created
And how they are products of brain hyper-sensitization and hyper-reactivity
These Symptoms Are Temporary...
As a preface to all this, I do believe that these symptoms are temporary. That is, they are due to systemic functional changes in the body, rather than permanent organic damage. Stopping the brain’s hyper-reactions allows the body to trigger the parasympathetic system, meaning the body’s own healing mechanisms can bring it back to balance and homeostasis.
This hypothesis serves as a potential unifying model for the various observations in patients.
Headaches and “Foggy” Head
Once again, these occur as a result of prolonged muscle tension in the head. The mind is particularly in a state of heightened arousal throughout the day, and becomes stressed and exhausted from so much stimulation. This can make the head sensitive and sore. Because there may be reduced blood pressure and blood flow to the head, this contributes to brain fog because there simply are not enough resources being channelled to the brain.
Inability To Concentrate
The mind is on edge due to the excited state of the amygdala. Furthermore, the conscious mind is “arrested” by the amygdala, as it gets bombarded with signals about the body. Therefore, the mind finds it difficult to focus on other tasks, because it is also trying to process the signals about the body.
When patients are in the state of heightened arousal about symptoms, their memory systems are reshuffled so that knowledge and memories most relevant to the symptoms will be recalled, taking precedence over other less relevant strands of thought. This makes concentrating on anything else very difficult.
Problems with Memory
An area of the brain called the hippocampus has a dual role; firstly in providing short term memory retrieval, and secondly as a “control knob” which tries to moderate the release of the stress hormones. The hippocampus becomes damaged during a chronic stress response, and no longer is able to fulfil these dual roles well. Therefore, the formation of new memories in the hippocampus is inhibited, which means that you may have problems with short term memory formation and retrieval.
Whilst this effect may seem frightening, recovery will mean that the hippocampus can return to its normal functioning.